Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay area teachers honored by ex-Gov. Jeb Bush

Michelle Henry, 31, teaches math at Witter Elementary in Tampa, where 93 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. She knows what people say about students who don't do well in school. It's their home life. It's their parents.

She says it's their teachers.

"I don't look at their deficits or what any student comes without," she said. "Your job is still to teach them. You're going to have to find another way."

Henry's attitude was honored Monday by former Gov. Jeb Bush. Looking at student progress on the FCAT, Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education named 81 teachers the "greatest" in Florida this year, including Henry and eight others from the bay area.

Trying to rate teacher quality is slippery enough without putting the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or the hard-charging former governor in the mix. But several teacher quality experts say the foundation is getting a better grip on doing it right.

Last year, it listed the state's top teachers based on one year's FCAT data — and was roundly criticized. Education researchers said the results were too likely to fluctuate from year to year, because of factors beyond a teacher's control, to draw strong conclusions.

So this year, the foundation partnered with the American Institutes of Research to analyze three years' worth of scores.

Better, but not perfect, said Dan Goldhaber, a teacher quality expert at the University of Washington. "They can probably be confident that these teachers are a lot better than the teachers at the bottom of the distribution," he said. "But just below the cutoff of (81) is going to be a lot of teachers who are probably not different from these teachers."

The foundation based its results on the gains students made from year to year, not final scores. On average, the students taught by the top teachers learned 50 percent more than typical students.

Some of the honorees bristled at the notion that they were just better at "teaching to the test."

"I have always taught this way — before the FCAT, after the FCAT," said Karen Henderson, a 36-year veteran at Garrison-Jones Elementary in Dunedin. "I have always taught critical thinking skills."

Henry, the Tampa teacher, said she frequently visits parents at their home or workplace if they can't meet her at school. It makes a difference, she said, when "the parents can see that you care."

Like last year, a lot of teachers were left out of the foundation's calculation. The analysis excluded teachers in grades K, 1, 2, 11 or 12, because the FCAT is not given in those grades. It excluded teachers in third grade, because fourth grade is the first year in which growth can be measured. It excluded the FCATs in writing and science, because those tests are not given to consecutive grades. And it excluded teachers who did not teach all three years.

In total, about 22,000 teachers were considered — a fraction of the 170,000 or so statewide.

The top teachers will be honored in Orlando on Saturday. They'll also be rewarded with cash — the amount will be a surprise — and a cruise.

"It's kind of cool," said Daniel Couillard, an English teacher at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School. But he said motivated students and a supportive administration also deserved a hand.

"I do try really hard," said Couillard, 39. "But it's hard to take more credit than credit's due."

Some top teachers are right here

All in all, 81 Florida teachers made the "greatest teachers" lists put together this year by the Foundation for Excellence in Education. The students were grouped into seven areas: below grade level, high achieving, disabled, English language learners, in low income families, in charter schools and overall. There were separate categories for math and reading. Here are the local teachers who made the lists:

• Daniel Couillard, Pinellas, St. Petersburg Collegiate High School (below grade level, reading)

• Karen Henderson, Pinellas, Garrison-Jones Elementary (below grade level, reading)

• Valerio W. Reynolds, Hillsborough, Hillsborough High (high achieving, reading)

• Sylvia Sarret, Hillsborough, Hillsborough High (high achieving, reading)

• Diana L. Carrillo, Hillsborough, Sickles High (disabled, reading)

• Dawn Thompson, Hillsborough, Burns Middle (English language learners, reading)

• Michelle Henry, Hillsborough, Witter Elementary (low income families, math)

• Richard K. Clapper, Pinellas, Pinellas Preparatory Academy (charter school students, math)

• Courtney Mills, Pasco, Countryside Montessori Academy (charter school students, math)

Tampa Bay area teachers honored by ex-Gov. Jeb Bush 11/30/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 30, 2009 11:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. After fraught debate, Trump to disclose new Afghanistan plan


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will unveil his updated Afghanistan policy Monday night in a rare, prime-time address to a nation that broadly shares his pessimism about American involvement in the 16-year conflict. Although he may send a few thousand more troops, there are no signs of a major shift in …

    U.S. soldiers patrol the perimeter of a weapons cache near the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2003. Sixteen years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan have left the insurgents as strong as ever and the nation's future precarious. Facing a quagmire, President Donald Trump on Monday will outline his strategy for a country that has historically snared great powers and defied easy solutions.  [Associated Press (2003)]
  2. Trial begins for man accused of threatening to kill Tampa federal judge


    TAMPA — Jason Jerome Springer was in jail awaiting trial on a firearms charge when he heard inmates talking about a case that had made the news.

    Jason Jerome Springer, 39, is accused of threatening to kill a U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich, according to a federal indictment.  |Hernando County Sheriff's Office photo]
  3. Editorial: Tampa Electric customers should not pay for utility's fatal misjudgments


    There will be financial fallout from the terrible miscalculations that resulted in five workers being killed in June at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. State and federal regulators should ensure those costs are borne by the company's shareholders, not its customers. Monetary considerations will not begin to …

    LUIS SANTANA   |   Times
There will be financial fallout from the terrible miscalculations that resulted in five workers being killed in June at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. State and federal regulators should ensure those costs are borne by the company's shareholders, not its customers.
  4. Superior Uniform acquires Los Angeles-based PublicIdentity


    SEMINOLE — A subsidiary of Seminole-based Superior Uniform Group has acquired Los Angeles-based branded merchandise company PublicIdentity Inc.

    Superior Uniform Group CEO Michael Benstock
[Courtesy of Superior Uniform Group]
  5. Money is the issue as Hillsborough strains to fix school air conditioners


    TAMPA — With more than 200 repair requests tumbling in every day, school officials in Hillsborough County are broadening their circle of air conditioning mechanics as they struggle to control a debilitating cycle of breakdowns and sweltering classrooms.

    Hillsborough school officials want to expand the number of contractors who work on broken school air conditioning systems. But it all gets rolled into a workload that has increased by 40 percent since 2011. "With no increase in budget, no increase in equipment and no increase in manpower, and as the equipment gets older and needs more maintenance, this is going to continue to grow," said Robert Weggman, general manager of maintenance." [